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30 September 2003

Challenge Censorship - Read Banned Books

I found this tidbit on Creative Dissonance. Once again I missed Banned Book Week. And I think I even sort of banned, well challenged, a book myself that week, although I felt really bad about it. Let me explain. In order to "get out more", and also to save money on books, I joined a "Reading Chains" programme at the Nottingham Public Library (sort of like a book club but without meetings). I was given a book to read that hadn't officially been added to the "chain" and when I returned it, I recommended that it not be added to the chain because it has a very explicit and, to me, disturbing, scene in it involving mother-son incest. I made it clear that the book was not in my opinion obscene, nor was it a "bad" book (in fact it was well written) but I was thinking that a thing like this, if someone more touchy than me read it (that's most people to be fair) could bring unwelcome controversy to the library. As I say, I felt very conflicted about the whole thing. The book is called "The Deadly Space Between", so it would ease my conscience a lot if someone would read it.

29 September 2003

Riverbend explains sheikhs and tribes

Wow! This post on Baghdad Burning is so packed with information - information that the coalition forces in Iraq need desperately to know and that it wouldn't hurt every American and every Brit who can read it to know as well.

28 September 2003

The Head Heeb on Nationalities

Following on from reading about the death of Edward Said (below), I was skimming through the comments on Jonathan (Head Heeb) Edelstein's obituary of him and came upon this very elegantly expressed thing about nationalities (Jonathan responding to something in the comments):
"All nationalities are, at bottom, created. 200 years ago, neither Israelis nor Palestinians existed; today, both do. Both are real not because of any political entity that did or did not exist 2000 years ago, but because a sufficient number of people believe that these nationalities exist and have constructed identities around them. Palestinian nationalism is at an earlier stage of development and as such has less definite boundaries, but that doesn't make it unreal, only embryonic."

Edward Said, 1935-2003

Hmm, I wonder why I had to read about this on Body and Soul? I guess I am not reading newspapers as much as I used to, I can hardly bear to watch TV at all, and I have been too busy at work to surf the web. If you don't know Said, you should; there is a link to some of his writings in the Body and Soul post.

27 September 2003

Genetically modified fudge

Emily Wilson in the Guardian sums up the story thus far on whether or not the UK is about to lift its moratorium on GM food crops. (The debate is over; let the discussion begin.) The findings of the focus groups were by far the most interesting outcome of the Great Public Debate on GM:
"These were made up of people who had no links with biotech or anti-GM groups, plucked from across the social spectrum and deposited in workshops. After they had spent time learning about GM, their views evolved from uncertainty to concern.
As the official report puts it: 'When people in the general population become more engaged in GM issues, and choose to discover more about them, they harden their attitudes to GM.'"

26 September 2003

'Tis a Gift

The latest post at FuckCorporateGroceries (Blogrolled on my Personal Pages) is about the contrast between unnecessary abundance and simplicity. It is beautiful writing, far more profound than what you would expect from a foodie blog, even though it is a "righteous" foodie blog.

Making the Link . . .

. . . between agricultural policy, world poverty and terrorism, the NY Times' Thomas Friedman in Connect the Dots. I agree with pretty much everything he says but there are some things about the way he says it that push my buttons just a bit. To wit:
"Sure, poverty doesn't cause terrorism — no one is killing for a raise. But poverty is great for the terrorism business because poverty creates humiliation and stifled aspirations and forces many people to leave their traditional farms to join the alienated urban poor in the cities — all conditions that spawn terrorists."
OK, just how exactly does that differ from "poverty causing terrorism"? This sounds like a sop to the right wing to me. Of course we all have to repeat the mantra that "evil causes terrorism" (or "rigid ideology" or "religious fanaticism", although some who say that last one are themselves religious fanatics). And we have to observe the shibboleth that "cause" must be defined ultra-narrowly, only scientifically verifiable causes, only a forensic level of proof. Bah. Orwell missed this one, this terribly hypocritical trick of all the current pundits of tentatively sketching a connection with one hand and self-righteously wiping it away with the other.
The main point Friedman is making, if you can read around the wishy-wash, is that agricultural subsidies for the farmers in wealthy nations contribute greatly to the impoverishment and ruination of farmers in developing nations. And yes, poverty is one of the causes of terrorism.

Shameful Tale of Minneapolis Public Housing

My friend Doug Mann, sometime school board candidate and author of a pamphlet (soon to be published) on the history of public education "reform", has an article in Pulse of the Twin Cities about the recent history of the Holman Consent Decree and the legal manoeuverings by the Minneapolis City government to get out of their obligations to public housing tenants under it. As hundreds of public housing tenants have been under-housed or homeless for over ten years waiting for promised replacement housing, Doug asks: "Where is the money"?

25 September 2003

Apologies to Tonstant Weaders

. . . if I have any such. (If you know the literary reference above, leave a comment to show off your erudition.) I have been too absorbed in my own petty personal concerns to blog for two days. But I just heard a snippet of Arnold S's great "political" "debate" on the BBC (radio) a few moments ago. Oh dear, oh dear. It is much worse even than I thought.

22 September 2003

A view from an outsider on the inside

The Guardian's US-based columnist Gary Younge, in "Democrats' dilemma", analyses the Democrats' chances of winning in 2004, in the wake of Gen. Wesley Clark's announcement of his candidacy. The short version: Clark gives the Dems more choice and a better chance to win, but he is far from a sure thing.

21 September 2003


Some changes were made recently (in fact, some today) to the supplemental blogs. In the Book Review and Store there are two new book reviews of Victorian mysteries that I am reading (An Orkney Murder and The Detective Wore Silk Drawers). In the Fund of Knowledge there is also a new book recommendation in the right hand margin (April 1865, The Month That Saved America, by Jay Winik) and some new entries in Politics and Religion. At Deborama's Personal Page, I have substituted a new picture for the family reunion; this one shows the whole family except for my husband, my grand-daughter, and one other family member (a niece) who wasn't born yet.

Brain Left Behind

This article on the depressingly popular "Left Behind" series is not so much a book review as a history lesson and exegesis of a body of paranoid literature.
"The worldview. . . propounded in the books was first popularised by the Protestant theologian John Nelson Darby in the mid-19th century, and it is disturbing how it has become an underlying meta-narrative for American life: progress for the righteous, doom for the enemy. It has even found a role in US politics – with a large lobby of North American citizens who believe that the Middle East roadmap should be opposed because it conflicts with their interpretation of end-times prophecy."

20 September 2003

Israel must choose

Avraham Burg's article in the Guardian, The end of Zionism, presents the stark choice facing Israel and her allies: a choice between racism and oppression on the one hand, and democracy and a state that is either shared, or smaller, on the other hand.
"The Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programs or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed."

19 September 2003

That Old Lie "Dulce et Decorum Est ..."

This story from the Jefferson City News Tribune, about a possible impending pay cut for National Guard serving in the Middle East, is just one of many of the stories in the US media, on the web and in weblogs about all the petty, mean ways the current US administration is jerking around (there's no nicer way to say it) the men and women serving in the war(s) on terrorism/Iraq. (The British government could not last a week in office if they pulled these kinds of shenanigans.)

Another and more serious story is this, from the El Paso Times, about an apparent Army cover-up around the deaths in an ambush near Nasiriyeh of several soldiers from Fort Bliss. A quote: "Ruben Estrella, father of 18-year-old Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto, from El Paso, said he no longer believes anything the Army tells him." To really appreciate what an extraordinary story this is, you have to understand that El Paso is an Army town, through and through, and the El Paso Times a paragon of military orthodoxy and patriotism.

Yet another tale, very touching in its slightly hysterical edge, is this letter from a Reservist serving in Kuwait, blogged on Buzzflash.

Editorial: Truth / Too little of it on Iraq

This editorial is from my "hometown paper," the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Disappearing the sick and injured in Iraq

This is from a blog called Creative Dissonance.

18 September 2003

Wow! A sane and rational law passed in the US!

TalkLeft: Bloomberg Reversal on Immigrant Reporting New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed an executive order making a person's sexual orientation, status as a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, and, most interestingly, immigration status, all confidential, except where relevant to a crime investigation. "At its core, Executive Order 41 is a clear and unequivocal invitation to all law-abiding New Yorkers to come forward without fear or apprehension and avail themselves of the services that keep us all healthy, safe and prosperous," Bloomberg said.

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but . . .

I am apparently not the only person in the world to think that a lot of the mistakes of the Vietnam War are being repeated with Iraq. This particular opinion is from Max Cleland in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance." Heh heh. (I was alerted to this by the very excellent Earl Bockenfeld's Radio Weblog.)

17 September 2003

A Still Relevant Quote

From George Bernard Shaw, 1921:
"...powers of destruction that could hardly without uneasiness be entrusted to infinite wisdom and infinite benevolence are placed in the hands of romantic schoolboy patriots who, however generous by nature, are by education ignoramuses, dupes, snobs and sportsmen to whom fighting is a religion and killing an accomplishment...Essentially the rulers are all defectives who wield irresistible powers of physical coercion"
Borrowed without permission but with gratitude from Bar Room Philosophy.

16 September 2003

Cash & Strummer & Marley

I got the "heads up" from Jeanne at Body and Soul about this upcoming release. (The article by John Nichols in the Nation is better than a hundred fawning obituaries.)

A Really Wicked Steve Bell Cartoon

Click on the cartoon for more from Steve Bell.

15 September 2003

Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger

This looks like the British answer to Kitchen Confidential.

Another Unexpected Wrinkle in CA Recall Election

Inconceivable! Now the US Court of Appeals is saying to delay the gubernatorial recall vote in California, scheduled for 7 October. But that seems to be widely expected to be overturned on appeal.

14 September 2003

Art student's protest against tuition debt

This art student has been pushing a monkey nut with his nose through the streets of London for several days. He is shown arriving outside No. 10 Downing Street.

Abundant Life's heritage seed collection destroyed by fire

I heard about this through an organic gardener's mailing list I am on. It happened over a month ago and it took quite a bit of savvy searching to find a link. (You have to read down a bit to get to the part about Abundant Life; this is in a local newspaper archive and obviously the loss of a supermarket had a greater impact on local lives.)
If anyone is growing plants that they originally got from Abundant Life seed, the company wants to hear from you, as they will try to rebuild the huge collection that was lost. Of course, this is a bigger hit to the planet than just the loss of one small business.
Here is a letter from Abundant Life about how they will procede to recover from the terrible loss.
UPDATE: The Abundant Life website is being updated regularly as the situation develops. As well as the priceless seed stock, they also lost membership records in the fire.

13 September 2003

The Tax-Cut Con

Paul Krugman in the New York Times explains the history of tax-cut politics - who benefits, who pays, how the US got where it is and where it can go from here.
Some quotes:

"It might seem impossible to put a populist gloss on tax cuts this skewed toward the rich, but the administration has been remarkably successful in doing just that."

"[T]hrough a combination of hardball politics, deceptive budget arithmetic and systematic misrepresentation of who benefits, Bush's team has achieved a major reduction of taxes, especially for people with very high incomes.
"But where does that leave the country?"

"If Grover Norquist is right ...the coming crisis will allow conservatives to move the nation a long way back toward the kind of limited government we had before Franklin Roosevelt. Lack of revenue, he says, will make it possible for conservative politicians ... to dismantle immensely popular government programs that would otherwise have been untouchable.
"In Norquist's vision, America a couple of decades from now will be a place in which elderly people make up a disproportionate share of the poor ... It will also be a country in which even middle-class elderly Americans are ... unable to afford expensive medical procedures or prescription drugs and in which poor Americans generally go without even basic health care. And ... a place in which only those who can afford expensive private schools can give their children a decent education."

12 September 2003

Baghdad Burning - a blog by Riverbend, an Iraqi "girl"

Baghdad Burning has several really good posts today; I recommend it. I have had her on my blogroll for quite a while, but I just thought I would bring her to your attention today.

This is not going to help . . .

US army blunder kills eight Iraqi police officers. Among those injured was a guard at the hospital where the wounded were taken. It kinda makes you wonder - what the heck is going on here?

Death of a Singer-Songwriter, Part I

Country singer Johnny Cash died today at the age of 71. Nowadays, that doesn't seem so old to me. Johnny and June Carter Cash were a big part of my youth, as I grew up in a solidly country-music household. And really Cash was more than just country. I will mourn him.

Death of a Singer-Songwriter, Part II

Warren Zevon, The Wind, the album he made shortly before his death from cancer, is reviewed by Alexis Petridis in the Guardian.

11 September 2003

Simon Hoggart assesses Blair's chances of survival

In Guardian Unlimited Politics, Hoggart reviews TB's first PMQ since July. Scathingly as usual. And TB goes all Churchillian on us. I am so sorry I missed all the good bits of the Dr. Kelly inquiry, including Blair's testimony, due to being in America.

Swedish foreign minister dies after stabbing

Anna Lindh, 46, Social Democrat, foreign minister, wife and mother. It seems like it's always the good guys.

Git yer Grateful Dead news here!

Bob Weir marries Natascha Muenter. Here's a chance to see Bob Weir in a kilt, John Barlow in a tux and Mickey Hart (surprise, surprise) in a sort of post-modern Hawaiian shirt.

09 September 2003

'I became the profane pervert Arab blogger'

Salam Pax in the Guardian tells, very elegantly, the history of the phenomenon that is his weblog. This amazing little gem of a story does two things for me - it reinforces my lackadaisically mystical worldview, based on a subtle God-driven mix of meaningless coincidence, cosmic irony and unappreciated miracles, and it explains almost perfectly the addictive attraction of blogging itself:
"With blogs the web started talking to me in a much more personal way. Bits of news started having texture and most amazingly, these blogs talked with each other. That hyperlink to the next blog - I just couldn't stop clicking. And the best thing about it was that Mr Site Killer had absolutely no clue."

08 September 2003

Aimee and Savannah - Two Views

Back in the UK

I arrived home yesterday. I have been sleeping a lot. Minneapolis was nice, but it has changed, and not (mostly) for the better. I have missed the husband, the dogs, the Guardian and a few other things. I got a lot of shopping done for those things either not available here or far cheaper in the US. (Why doesn't Target get some stores into England? They are so direly needed.)
The pictures I took of Savannah (in the hospital, with a disposable camera) are not the greatest. I am hoping some better ones will arrive from there soon. On Friday night, we had a little get together of my friend Janet, my son Carey who came in from Athens, GA for two days, Janet's son Sam and daughter Ursula, and Aimee and baby Savannah, and Janet took some much better pictures.
Savannah is adorable and healthy and the new mother is doing very well.

03 September 2003

More on the Grandchild of the Century

Savannah Shea is bright and adorable and 8 lbs. 9 oz. and 22 inches long. Both she and mother Aimee are very well and are coming home from the hospital today. She smiles and sleeps and sticks out her tongue a lot (all three at once.) I am having a great time in breezy sunny Minneapolis, and hopefully will have the pictures to prove it in a few days.

02 September 2003

We are a grandmother.

On behalf of Wifey, I should like to announce that my Iron Lady has become a grandmother to Savannah Shea at 22:30 CDT Merkin time, (03:30 GMT) September 1st, 2003. I am sure she will have (much) more to say on the topic in due course.

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